Multibook mode

For some reason, I get this way sometimes: I prefer to be reading multiple books at once (well, not EXACTLY at once), dipping into each one as the mood hits me. This morning, I realized that the number has piled up:

1. The first Skulduggery Pleasant book, a YA magical-sorcery-thingy which Lyvvie recommended as an example of someone who writes 12-year-olds well. Her daughter loves the stuff. And while I can see the attraction to a pre-teenaged girl (the heroine is strong, intelligent, and brave), there isn’t much meat here for the adult reader of YA. My vote is still for the Bartimaeus Trilogy, which admittedly is aimed at an older YA crowd, but has enough humor and depth to appeal to the adult reader. And while the protagonist is male, one of the main characters is, you guessed it, a strong, intelligent, and brave young woman.

2. Still working my way through China Mieville’s The Scar. This is one of his earlier works, and I tend to like his more recent novels better. The Scar is just on the cusp of eh, think I’ll put this one down for now. But I’m 3/4 of the way through and haven’t given up yet. There simply isn’t enough there: not enough action, not enough appeal to the characters or plot, not enough of Mieville’s signature weirdness. All it has going for it is a bit of narrative drive. I want to know what happens next.

3. I’m rereading Crime and Punishment . . . again, as the mood hits. I read it between 9th and 10th grade, I think, and wanted to revisit it as an adult. I may not finish it; every time I pick it up, I want to slap Raskolnikov upside the head. He’s a very Hamlet-like character in the way he dithers, and I’ve never much liked Hamlet.

4. When I have nothing to read but Nook on my cellphone, I turn to James Ellroy’s The Cold Six Thousand, a novel about the two Kennedy assassinations and the MLK assassination. Lots of dish on J. Edgar Hoover, Jimmy Hoffa, various mobsters, etc. Who cares if it’s fiction; it reads like a dramatization of true events. And who doesn’t want confirmation that the JFK assassination was a fix from the highest powers? (Yup, God wanted JFK dead.) (Kidding, kidding!) I’m reading this mostly because I find Ellroy’s style so fascinating: staccato, brutally stark. Ellroy himself described the style as “ugly.” Plus, it’s fascinating how well he evokes the early 60s.

5. And when I have to have an actual paperback in my hands, I’m reading/rereading Tim Powers’s time travel novel, The Anubis Gates. First time I tried reading this many years ago, I bogged down at around page 120. The time travel gimmicks struck me as just a wee bit too coy and obvious. Now I’m at page 265 and I’m finally hooked. I enjoyed it more this time around (the first half, that is), and in retrospect I think I abandoned it for a number of reasons. Powers suffers from the too-much-research problem (. . . and I have to share all of it with you) and yet he occasionally screws up, as when one of the minor characters in the 1600s calls sausages ‘sawfages.’ Just because typesetters used that f-thingy for internal s’s doesn’t mean people PRONOUNCED it that way. Jeez. Anyway, I’m skimming through all of the dense descriptive bits and having a much better go of it.

So what are y’all reading?



  1. KGK says:

    Quite a mixed bag there! I loved Anubis Gates, which led me into further Tim Powers reading. I’ve liked everything he’s done, except for Dinner at Deviant’s Palace.

    I completely agree with you about Raskolnikov. Sort of reminds of the whiny Madame Bovary. Yech! Dump Fyodr Mikhailovich for some Turgenyev.

    I just finished reading Robert Harris’ three ancient Rome books – not bad, but not brilliant. I’ve got the new Neal Stephenson’s book all queued up. I also have Moby Dick on the Kindle that I bought last summer, but (exactly as my beloved better half predicted) still haven’t started using it.

    Most of my reading is magazine-based, since the articles/stories are short enough that I won’t find myself staying up all night to finish.

  2. Chris says:

    I’m reading:
    1. A Dance with Dragons on my Kobo (not very far into it as I only read it when I’m stuck somewhere without a real book);
    2. Blackout / All Clear, by Connie Willis, which I’m enjoying greatly – it’s a time travel novel set in London during The Blitz. Not quite as good as To Say Nothing of the Dog, IMO, but still very enjoyable.
    3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – just started this one, but it’s had excellent reviews from a number of science writers I like.
    4. Catherine The Great; Portrait of a Woman – a biography, very good but I’m having trouble keeping track of all the Russian names.
    5. Microsoft Excel 2010 Data Analysis and Business Modelling – a roller-coaster of a novel, filled with lovable characters, ripping yarns and rollicking adventure. Or, something I’m looking at for work.

  3. Walnut says:

    Kira, I’ll have to look around for Turgenyev. Suspect I can find some through Gutenburg. Any recommendations? Oh, and stick with Moby Dick at least until the homosexual panic scene when Ishmael first meets Queequeg.

    Chris: Some of my graduate work used HeLa cells, IIRC. I heard an interview about this book on NPR — sounded very interesting.

    And I’ll skip the Microsoft book. Too Hemingwayesque.

  4. KGK says:

    Sketches from a Hunter’s Album is a collection of short stories from Turgenyev and is a good way to test the waters.

    My boss was cleaning out his office and I wound up with “The Dark Valley – a panorama of the 1930s” by Piers Brendon. On my first dip into this history, there was a very grim description of the famine in Ukraine, which prompted the party to post notices that “Consumption of Dead Children is Cannibalism”. So maybe I won’t be giving this volume priority. Or maybe I can for Chris’ Microsoft book.

  5. Walnut says:

    “Consumption of Dead Children is Cannibalism” — to which the starving Ukrainians probably replied, “Yes? And what’s your point, precisely?” Horrifying, but I’m not sure starving to death is intrinsically noble.

  6. Walnut says:

    Oh, and I just finished The Scar . . . I have to agree with (someone somewhere who reviewed the thing maybe at Amazon) — it falls down in the end. Definitely one of Mieville’s “early period” works.

  7. KGK says:

    Finished Reamde on Sunday afternoon and just loved it. Much of the book involved discussions of firearms, so it was fitting that we ended the weekend playing Lasertag. I’d never played before and it’s really fun. I did use a colorful word in front of the 7 year old, who thoughtfully repeated it at dinner.

    Somehow Stephenson just hits my taste right on. The book had lots of things I enjoy in a read – Russian mafia, terrorists, exotic locales, people stepping up and doing the right thing, gaming, a British spy, stalwart CIA operatives, poking fun at the corporate world, etc. Probably not going to be everyone’s favorite, but there’s lots going on and after I stuck my toe in the waters of the first few chapters on Friday night, I was sucked right in by the rip tide of the fast moving action. So if you have time for 1K+ pages, you might give it a whirl.

  8. Walnut says:

    I dunno, Kira, I lost patience with Stephenson somewhere in the middle of Cryptonomicon. Oh, yeah (spoiler!) the love interest with leprosy. So predictable.

    I’m reading Hugh Laurie’s (yeah THAT Hugh Laurie) The Gun Seller at the moment. That and The Cold Six Thousand, still. Laurie’s a fine comedic writer, no surprise.